I've taken trains throughout Europe, but this was the first time I’d traveled to a fishing lodge by train. The journey started at the White River Train Station in Northern Ontario, a place with some interesting history.
Just prior to WWI, a veterinarian in the Royal Canadian Army Veterinary Corps named Harry Colebourn purchased a bear cub for $20 from a trapper at the White River Train Station. Colebourn named the bear Winnie after his hometown of Winnipeg—and took her across the Atlantic, where she became a mascot for his cavalry regiment. Some years later, Colebourn donated the animal to the London Zoo, and Winnie became the inspiration for A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh stories.
As for the train ride from White River to the lodge, it’s the perfect way to experience Ontario’s backcountry. The scenery through the train car window was a gorgeous cinema: the early-morning sun peaking through treetops, fog burning off the water, a moose standing solemn in the spongy bog—it’s a great way to relax, reflect, and prepare for remote fishing. And you can’t help but feel a little nostalgic for the way things used to be. For me, trains and adventure just go hand in hand.
After the train stopped at "Mile 88" we unloaded our gear—and from there it was only a short boat ride away on Esnagi Lake, a body of water that stretches 27 miles and covers over 10,000 acres. A multi-species fishery, Esnagi is home to walleyes, northern pike, perch, and whitefish. Nearby Rock Lake is accessible by portage and offers fantastic brook trout fishing.
The MacLachlan family has been operating Lodge Eighty Eight for almost 60 years! Ian MacLachlan built Camp 88 in 1959 and, over the years, it has expanded. You can stay in one of three large, beautiful cabins or the authentic upright log suites of the Eagle's Nest, which is where we stayed. You can choose the ultimate in pampering via their American Plan or the freedom of their Deluxe Housekeeping Plan. The spacious cabins are great for larger groups and the rooms of the Eagle's Nest accommodate small families or groups of two perfectly!
The name of the game here is walleye and pike. You can catch good numbers of both and BIG ones, too! Lodge Eighty Eight offers both cedar strip boats and fully outfitted Lund aluminum V-hull boats. The stable 18-foot cedar strips are beautiful and have been in use since 1958. For something more modern, they have a fleet of 16-foot Lund SSV and Fury models.
One afternoon when the wind picked up, it was nearly non-stop pike action! I boated over 30 fish in just a few hours. They attacked any kind of bait we threw! It was a lot of fun. We even set up a GoPro in front of a swim bait and couple a couple with that rig! In terms of walleye, early mornings and late evenings provide incredible action. I got into some really good ones with Rapala Jigging Raps. If you want to catch both walleyes and pike, go early and late for the 'eyes, and find shallow cabbage flats for pike action in the afternoons.
What an amazing experience! During our stay, there were both young and old enjoying their time there. There really is something for everyone, regardless of skill level or age. You can keep the fishing as technical or as simple as you’d like! The fish are very accommodating.
In terms of getting there, Lodge Eighty Eight offers both train-in and fly-in options. We took the train in and flew out, which is great depending on how you prefer to travel and how much time you have.
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